C of E volunteers ‘add civic value’ to the nation

by
11 June 2008

by Ed Beavan

THE GOVERNMENT must do more to recognise the huge contribution made by churches in providing voluntary and welfare services to the community, a new report commissioned by the Church of England concluded this week.

The report, Moral, But No Compass, by the Von Hügel Institute in Cambridge, is the culmination of a year of research that surveyed parishes, bishops, policy-makers, and politicians to assess the Church’s “civic value”.

Launching the report, Francis Davis, the co-director of the Centre for the Study of Faith at the Institute, said he was “astounded” by the large amount of community and voluntary work carried out by Anglican churches across England.

The report found that government statistics on measuring this work was “profoundly flawed”. “We uncovered huge gaps in government evidence about faith communities in general, and the churches in particular,” Mr Davis said. “We encountered, on the part of Government, a significant lack of understanding of, or interest in, the Church of England’s current or potential contribution in the public sphere.”

Mr Davis said the Charity Commission’s system of classification of faith-based organisations might underestimate the community work of church groups by up to half.

“Given the extent to which modern departments of state aspire to root their strategies in sound research and hard data, it is unsurprising that these omissions are now beginning to contribute to weaknesses in public-policy design and co-ordination.”

The report highlighted the “myriad” examples of social-action initiatives set up by church volunteers, which include post offices, asylum-rights centres, and youth clubs.

It calls on the Government to recognise the contribution of faith communities across all government departments by appointing a Minister for Religion, Social Cohesion and Voluntary Action. The report also recommends that the Church establish a voluntary-sector support-group to develop the place of the Church in social and community work.

Advertisement

The Bishop of Hulme, the Rt Revd Stephen Lowe, who is also the Bishop for Urban Life and Faith, travelled to Australia and Hong Kong to observe the work of the Anglican Churches in providing welfare services, and his findings are included in the report.

He said: “We’ve not been good at telling people our own story. We spend a lot of time discussing the ‘fact’ that we’re declining, without recognising the immense contribution we make as the largest voluntary organisation in the country. That aspect is often forgotten.

“The Church of England is unique, as it is represented in every community. Hazel Blears said we live in a secular democracy, but we still have a presence in every community.” He called for a widespread debate on the issue.

In its conclusion, the authors of the report say the Government has “consistently failed to pay more than enthusiastic lip service” to the Church’s part in the civic health of the nation, and call for a fresh dialogue and “enthusiastic recognition” of all that the Church is already doing.

Moral, But No Compass: Government, Church and the future of welfare, by Francis Davis, Elizabeth Paulhus, and Andrew Bradstock, is published by Matthew James Publishing Ltd at £9.95.

See comment

Moral, But No Compass: Government, Church and the future of welfare, by Francis Davis, Elizabeth Paulhus, and Andrew Bradstock, is published by Matthew James Publishing Ltd at £9.95.

See comment

THE Revd Steve Chalke, founder of the Faithworks movement which encourages churches and individuals to get involved in social action, said he was surprised by the findings of the report Moral, But No Compass.

Speaking on the eve of a reception at 10 Downing Street, where government ministers were due to pay tribute to Faithworks, Mr Chalke said that he had never felt marginalised.

THE Revd Steve Chalke, founder of the Faithworks movement which encourages churches and individuals to get involved in social action, said he was surprised by the findings of the report Moral, But No Compass.

Speaking on the eve of a reception at 10 Downing Street, where government ministers were due to pay tribute to Faithworks, Mr Chalke said that he had never felt marginalised.

“I think the report offers a valuable contribution to the ongoing debate, but the debate has moved on. In what it says about the Church being excluded, that is not my experience, nor Faithworks’.

“I think the report offers a valuable contribution to the ongoing debate, but the debate has moved on. In what it says about the Church being excluded, that is not my experience, nor Faithworks’.

“The debate now needs to be about how Christian faith continues to play a significant role in public life without being divisive or excluding.”

“The debate now needs to be about how Christian faith continues to play a significant role in public life without being divisive or excluding.”

Faithworks was founded in 2001, and now has 20,000 members.

 

Faithworks was founded in 2001, and now has 20,000 members.

 

Forthcoming Events

16-18 February 2018
Church Times Festival of Faith & Literature

Our literary festival with a theological slant in Bloxham, Oxfordshire. Speakers include Francis Spufford, Ruth Valerio, Eve Poole, Mark Oakley, James Runcie and many others. Find out more

5-6 May 2018
Church Times Festival of Poetry
With Sarum College, Salisbury. More details coming soon - register your interest here

The Church Times Podcast

The Church Times Podcast, hosted by Tim Wyatt and Ed Thornton, features a mixture of interviews and news analysis. Listen online

Subscribe now to get full access

To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read seven articles each month for free.